PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Attorney General Peter Neronha announced Thursday no charges would be filed against the officer involved in a crash that left a 24-year-old critically injured in October.
The crash, which took place on Oct. 18, led to protests and a call for justice for Jhamal Gonsalves, who was critically injured and in a coma for two months following the crash. The Gonsalves’ family says he is still in serious condition at a medical facility in New Jersey.
Neronha said his office determined that the actions of Officer Kyle Endres, who was driving the cruiser involved in the crash, did not rise to the criminal standard of “recklessness,” though it may have been civilly negligent.
He cited several factors in making that decision, including that Endres was trying to brake and maneuver his vehicle to avoid crashing, and that he was following Gonsalves at a relatively low speed when the crash occurred. Police determined that Endres crashed into a stop sign, which came down onto Gonsalves’ head. He was wearing a helmet but suffered a severe head injury.
The investigation involved numerous videos, photographs, witness statements, interviews with officers and accident reconstruction on the cruiser and moped, among other evidence reviewed. The Rhode Island State Police released a 100-page accident reconstruction report Thursday, and Neronha’s office compiled a 50-page report on their own findings.
One of the major questions after the crash took place was whether Endres actually crashed into Gonsalves, whom he had been following on Elmwood Avenue as a large group of moped, ATV and bike riders sped through the city.
Rhode Island State Police Col. James Manni said the accident construction unit “conclusively” determined that when Gonsalves turned right on the scooter, followed by Endres, Endres’ cruiser struck a stop sign which then projected down onto Gonsalves’ helmet. His cruiser did not hit the scooter or Gonsalves, Manni said.
In a news conference, he showed photos of the cruiser’s bumper, which he said had a dent consistent with crashing into the stop sign. Gonsalves’ scooter did not have damage that indicated it was hit by a cruiser, and his helmet had damage and red paint that was in line with being hit by the stop sign.
But whether or not Endres hit Gonsalves — or hit the object that hit Gonsalves — was not the most important factor in making the decision, Neronha said. His office aimed to determine whether Endres’ driving was considering “reckless” prior to crashing into the sign, which is the standard required for a driving to endanger charge.
“This is not a reckless driving case,” Neronha. “Is it a tragic case? Yes. Might it be negligence? Yes.” (Gonsalves’ family has already said they plan to file a civil negligence lawsuit.)
He also released a radio call that had not previously been disclosed, where Endres urged fellow officers to “box this guy in” moments before the crash.
But after reviewing video and interviews other officers, investigators said they found no evidence any effort to box him in actually took place.
“It was determined that no member of the Providence Police Department made any effort to box in Mr. Gonsalves prior to the crash,” Manni said.
Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven Paré said the internal investigation into whether Endres violated any Providence Police policies is still ongoing, and declined to comment on which policies he may have violated. Endres is on desk duty for now.
While Paré wouldn’t say which policies police are looking at, a copy of the city’s pursuit policy says boxing in a vehicle is not allowed.
Protests broke out the day after the crash, following the quick spread of cell phone video that depicted the events.
Police also released several body camera videos of the crash in October, including one worn by Endres. Since the cameras are worn on the chest, Endres’ video shows more of his steering wheel and dashboard during the crash rather than the street, and doesn’t show if he hits the sign or the moped.
That body camera video — coupled with the cruiser’s black box — helped police determine that Endres had activate the car’s ABS system and was attempting to brake and maneuver the wheel to prevent a crash.
The body camera videos also showed officers dragging Gonsalves from the moped and administering Narcan, the overdose-reversal drug, after apparently mistaking the symptoms of his head injury for an overdose.
Tim White contributed to this report